Austrian Politico Sentenced for Doubting Gas Chambers Existed

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VIENNA - A former Austrian politician yesterday received a suspended one-year prison sentence for denying aspects of the Holocaust. The sentence can be activated if he repeats his offense over the next three years, according to court spokeswoman, Alexandra Mathes.

He has not been detained and his lawyer has appealed the ruling, Mathes said.

Earlier yesterday he pleaded not guilty to charges that he broke a law that bans attempts to diminish, deny or justify the Holocaust by questioning the existence of gas chambers.

John Gudenus, a former legislator in Austria's upper house of parliament, declared in an Austrian television interview in April 2005 that the existence of gas chambers in the Third Reich should be "seriously debated." In a later interview, he amended the remarks to say that "there were gas chambers, though not in the Third Reich but in Poland."

Gudenus's lawyer, Farid Rifaat, argued in a packed Vienna court that Gudenus never generally denied the existence of gas chambers, but that he simply called for examination of the question of whether they existed between 1933 and 1938.

After 1938, when Rifaat said the Third Reich became known as the Greater German Reich following the annexation of Austria, the existence of gas chambers was "indisputabl e" for his client, he said in comments quoted by the Austria Press Agency.

"I am not at all unsure about gas chambers in the Greater German Reich. Concerning gas chambers in the Third Reich, I would still like to express some uncertainty," Gudenus said in his defense, as quoted by APA.

According to Austrian law, Gudenus, could have faced up to 10 years in prison.

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